Giving Compass' Take:

• Business Fights Poverty, and the League of Intrapreneurs found that if companies invest in four main areas, there will be far more innovation in the social impact sector. 

• One of the main areas the authors discuss is what they call, "purpose beyond profit," in which companies need to clearly articulate the purpose of their mission to enhance social innovation. 

• Read about the competitive advantages of social enterprises. 

According to Gifford Pinchot III, who coined the term in 1978, intrapreneurs are “dreamers who do.” They bring much-needed entrepreneurial capacity to large, systematized organizations.

Over a six-month period this year, our organizations—Business Fights Poverty and the League of Intrapreneurs—engaged company leaders, intrapreneurs, and social innovation practitioners in a series of international workshops, online learning events, and in-depth interviews. Our research uncovered increased company investment in social innovation, as well as intrapreneurship incubators, accelerators, and funds. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, we also observed the limits of these approaches without a wider enabling environment.

Like social entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs need a healthy ecosystem to survive and thrive. Companies that take a holistic approach and invest across four main areas—purpose, people, power and pipeline—are more likely to see social innovation not only spark, but scale.

  1. Purpose Beyond Profit: Companies that have a clearly articulated purpose that references social impact automatically create a more supportive environment for social intrapreneurs. Officially recognizing purpose beyond profit enables social innovators to link their new ideas to company priorities, and illustrate how their efforts support broader definitions of value and purpose.
  2. People as Change Agents:  Research among hundreds of leading companies revealed that employees are one of the biggest sources of innovation. Companies can optimize this resource by building capabilities for innovation, and developing rewards and incentives that encourage sideways-thinking and experimentation.
  3. The Power of We: Power, in its various forms, is a major determinant of an intrapreneur’s success. When power is centralized or contained within small groups, or when departments don’t effectively collaborate, it limits opportunities for new ideas and divergent thinking.
  4. A Generative Pipeline: If company leaders want to increase intrapreneurial innovation, they need to develop programs and processes explicitly designed to generate, incubate, and scale ideas.

Read the full article about social intrapreneurs by Hester le Roux & Maggie De Pree at Stanford Social Innovation Review